Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tips for Saving Attorney's Fees

Peggy Roston, who writes the Alaska Divorce Blog, recently had a brief post with some excellent common sense ways to cut down on attorney's fees. Most people going through a divorce or other family law issue are interested in conserving their funds and not over-spending for the attorneys. Here are Peggy's ideas:

"Divorce litigation is extremely expensive. Your attorney will charge you for the time he or she spends writing and responding to letters, emails, and motions. Some of the time your attorney has to spend on your case is unavoidable. But there are a few things that you can do to help your attorney handle your case in a cost-effective manner.

"• Communicate by e-mail rather than by telephone. Telephone calls tend to be more expensive because of the pleasantries exchanged before you and your attorney get down to business.

"• Keep your e-mails short and to the point. Your attorney may receive hundreds e-mails a day. If you keep your emails short and to the point, your attorney can respond quickly to the issue you have raised without having to wade through a lengthy email.

"• Organize your financial documents before you give them to your attorney. Parties in a divorce case must exchange tax returns, credit card statements, brokerage statements, bank statements, and personal property lists. Respond promptly to your attorney’s request for financial information. If you have personal or work time-constraints, I suggest you call your attorney to ask for a referral to a financial professional who can help you out. Having organized financial documents can save you hundreds or possibly thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees or paralegal fees and can keep your case moving forward."

In general, clients can save money by controlling their urge to call up their attorney to discuss every issue that comes up. It also helps to save money when clients take on as much of the preparation as they are competent to do. Gathering and organizing records is vitally important and can result in a signifcant saving of money.

Has anyone else come up with good ideas on how to save attorney's fees? Please send your comments with suggestions.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Responding to Provocation

I have just run across a new (for me, at least) blog called the Fresh Start After Divorce Blog, run by the National Association of Divorce for Women and Children, which had some really good, practical advice and inspiration for dealing with the transition from marriage to single person. Ellen Kellner wrote a recent post entitled "How NOT to React to Your Ex!" which I reprinted below. Her advice can work equally well for men or women.

"What is the cinching element to The Pro-Child Way? Mindfulness. It’s that moment where you stop reacting to your ex and let the stillness guide your heart. It’s the breath in, before you say something spiteful about your ex in front of your child. It’s the glance downward towards your child, before your eyes start rolling up in aggravation. Mindfulness is an opportunity – an opportunity that opens your awareness to choice.

"Mindfulness leads to the other way: the Pro-Child Way. Whereas another divorced-parenting path may have been previously obscured, mindfulness opens your eyes to other possibilities. Your challenge is to be aware that this other path exists and then recognize the opportunity before you pass right by it. Why bother? Because you have a child who needs to be considered.

"Thankfully, when it comes to divorce, we get many, many opportunities to practice mindfulness. If you’re lucky, your ex may be a jerk several times before noon – all lovely opportunities for mindfulness practice!

"After the first 'ex' incident, when you react with full divorced passion, do you find a moment when you think, 'hmmm, maybe I shouldn’t have said that.' If you do, grasp that moment: this is the call of mindfulness. Reaffirm that inkling, by saying, 'yes, I should have stopped before saying that.' And then move on, this isn’t about guilt trips!

"How much practice is it going to take to shorten the time between your ex’s provocation, and your realization that maybe you shouldn’t blurt out what’s on your mind? If you can come to that conclusion in an hour after the crime, why not in 10 minutes, or in 5 seconds? When you catch yourself reacting BEFORE you do it, not only will the angels sing, but also your ex’s mouth may drop. That’s when you can smile. That’s when you’re recognizing an opportunity for mindfulness.
So what’s next? Your ex just said something and you’re standing there smiling. Clearly, someone’s gotta do something next. This is the real beauty… you can choose! The possibilities are fun. In the flash of your smile your wonderful brain can create a zillion responses. As it discards the ones that will land you in jail, the more caring responses rise to the top. Slightly problematic are the times when the nurturing response is elusive. It happens. Here are two good standbys to have in your 'do' list:

"Do keep smiling, turn, and walk away from your ex.

"When you become better at multi-tasking, add vocal to the smile/turn/walk routine. Do sound 'hmmmm' then smile/turn/walk away.

"In your mindfulness, it’s much better to choose to say nothing than to react with an under-processed thought. It really doesn’t matter if your ex thinks you’ve lost it. It isn’t your ex’s opinion that matters anymore. Your child will benefit from your practice of mindfulness, and you will too. It’s from this point that you can start your journey down The Pro-Child Way."

A special thanks to my friend Sam Hasler of Sam Hasler's Indiana Divorce & Family Law Blog for the tip to read this blog. I agree with him that it is worth watching. I can recommend it to both women and men, despite the title. It won't help some people, but I can imagine a lot of men and women will feel better and more hopeful after reading some posts.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Top 10 Reasons a Premarital Agreement May be Invalid

A topic that comes up periodically is prenuptial agreements. Sometimes people plan ahead, think through the issues and come up with appropriate agreements that actually benefit both parties, or at least don't take advantage of one of the parties. As helpful as they can be, most often we hear about them when a couple is splitting up and there will be a huge fight unless the prenuptial agreement is valid.

Stephen Worrall, who writes one of my favorite blogs, the Georgia Family Law Blog, had a recent post about that issue.

"FindLaw has a list of 10 reasons which may cause a prenuptial agreement to fail. For more details, check out the original post, but this is a list of those reasons:

  • No written agreement.
  • Not properly executed.
  • You were pressured.
  • You didn't read it.
  • No time for consideration.
  • Invalid provisions.
  • False information.
  • Incomplete information.
  • No independent counsel.
  • Unconscionability. "

If you are wanting to end up with an enforceable prenuptial agreement, make sure that the 10 problems are avoided. Taking shortcuts and rushing through the preparation and signing of the agreement will almost guarantee that it will be unenforceable. Clearly, this is something that you need a lawyer to work with you and another lawyer for your soon-to-be spouse. If you invest the time and money up front, you should save a lot more at the end, if there is one.